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I have always found it easiest for me to tell my stories from the beginning, thus.
I can remember laying in bed as a youngster, around the
age of four or five, possibly even beginning at age three, listening to
the voices. I was never afraid of them, even though they never sounded
very friendly towards each other. At times, I could almost feel the hatred
developed by these two. Vicious, angry epitaphs were slung at each other.
Usually, I would just fall asleep listening to those two,
wondering what exactly was being said. Sometimes, I would still be awake
as my Mother would come in to wake me. I never could really understand
them. Just by the tone, the timing in their voices, the volume increasing
and then dying down as the Arguments ensued. I never told my Mother about
them, nor my Father. I don't know why, I just didn't.
The years went by. Vietnam was going strong in 1972. My draft number was something like 165. That meant pretty good odds I was going to be drafted to go fight over there. The rumor was, anything below a number of 200 on your draft card meant you were certain to be picked. As it turned out, I never was drafted and didn't really care to enlist. Nope, not my cup of tea at all. I would soon though, have my own battles to face right here on the home front.
I was going to high school. A Sophomore. Wasn't doing
so hot grade wise. As if having the sword of Damocles hanging over my head
in the shape of Vietnam, there was also the ever popular Race battles going
on inside the High School campus. At the time, our High School was an open
campus and any one and every one could come and go as they please. Sure,
we had security, but they were there mainly to watch over the parking lots,
to make sure kids didn't cut class room activities by leaving in their
cars. There were not nearly enough to watch every open area of the school,
especially when groups of two, three, or four grown adult black guys would
come on campus looking for "Whitey". This was a racial slang term used
by some of the Black folk. I managed to pass basically unnoticed, as they
would be illegally coming on to our campus. I'll never forget these three
large muscular African Americans, One solidly hitting his fist into his
hand, purposefully striding on to campus saying "OK, Where's Whitey?" Their
arms were huge. They didn't appear to be coming on to campus looking
for a good time. I can't say that all the larger overgrown African Americans
on campus at that time were using that particular verbiage, but it got
used a lot.
Personally, all this "Whitey" was trying to do was figure
out the meaning of Edgar Allen Poe's wickedly delicious poems or trying
to come up with any number of short stories for English. Then, of course,
their was dealing with P.E., the weather, getting to and from school, Math,
History, Geography, Mechanical drawing, Auto Shop, Architectural Drawing,
and Ceramics. It was a very interesting year.
Vietnam. That was the big kahuna. Christ, every night at dinner time I could see all the new advancements in American Warfare brought to my living room in glorious technicolor. Lovely great American voices discoursing all the latest kill ratios of Vietnamese to American Soldiers. Scenes of Bombings and air Raids, Demilitarized Zones and Death squads. The nightly news made Poe's Stories of Horror pale in comparison. Millions and Millions of dollars, tons and tons of Bombs, thousand of young American and Vietnamese Lives all feeding the great War Machine. There I was, with this horrid little green piece of cardboard in my wallet which allowed for me to join this fucked up mess at any time. All that had to happen, was for them to be needing more bodies than they had at the time, and for my lottery Draft number to come up as the winner. I too, would then be flown half way across the world and allowed to shoot my way back home, killing as many Vietnamese as possible with out having my head handed to me at the same time. Great way to spend every waking moment, and some moments not awake, trying not to think about that.
Thank God, I didn't have to enlist in the draft till I was 14. Damn good thing I didn't have to sweat that shit out for the next 3 and ½ years. Good thing that didn't happen during the time I was going to High school. Why, that may have affected my grades somewhat. Pretty damn strange how my High school counselor didn't ever figure that into the equation when I was pulled into her office for a discussion of where I was headed with the lousy Grades I was making. Yep, Strange times indeed. Kinda of set the tone for a good part of my life.
I was also forced to deal with Death then as well. He came and visited three students. All three were very good associates. The trio were highly intelligent individuals that could have lent a lot to society and our town. But this trio would never get a chance to find out.
Two of these deaths affected the whole campus. They happened a few months apart, which was a good thing. The third happened to a fellow that enlisted to fight in Vietnam. He never made it out of Boot camp. I was just left wondering, how is it that I knew all three of these guys.
How do I describe Dead Head? He was at times obnoxious, highly intelligent, crude, border line mean, but not vicious. He got great enjoyment in torturing little insects. He was a bit of a dare devil. He was white and usually very overweight. Once we got into High school, he started to experiment with drugs and explosives.
I had know Dead Head ever since Third Grade. His family moved right next door to me. I was glad to have a neighbor growing up that was the same age as me, that I could play with. It's just that at times, I really shouldn't have been around Dead Head. Dead Head could be very influential and persuasive at times. With some of the thoughts Dead Head had running through his brain, those weren't necessarily good traits for him to have. For I was gullible. I trusted then and still do trust my fellow man. I wanted to believe that Dead Head had my best interest at heart. At times, this was hardly the case.
Take smoking, for instance. Dead Head first tried to get me to take up that nasty habit around this time in my life, being a sophomore in high school. I didn't want to smoke, but Dead Head was also extremely persistent and insistent. Dead Head didn't like to take No for an answer. He wanted things his way. He worked very hard at making sure that the outcome of any given situation had his total control, and ended the way he had planned. Plan he did. I think a lot of the brain energy he used went into planning his life and those of everyone around him. Lucky me. I actually smoked cigarettes for about two weeks, then gave it up. What I could never figure out was how he managed to get me to try chewing tobacco. God, I can still remember the taste of that crap as I accidently swallowed for the first time. Gross. He used that stuff for years. He seemed to have a very self destructive nature about him as well.
I was the perfect guinea pig for some of his quests. There I was, Big, white, rather mixed up, but trying to get a handle on my life, and very convenient. Way too damn convenient. There was a fence around his backyard that was Chain link. There was a fence around my back yard that came up to my waist. There was a cement driveway between our yard. Nothing to hide from Dead Head as I would come out my back door. If Dead Head wanted to inform me of his new plan, I was pretty much a sitting duck. I guess I could have played deaf or not gone outside for days on end, at least out the back way. That didn't stop him from coming to my Front Door or calling on the phone.
There was also a friend of his that I got introduced to.
I shall call him Billy Boy. The only reason I mention this individual is
that he becomes very instrumental later on in my life at a crucial time
spiritually. He was not a nice individual at all, continually going out
of his way to cause and inflict injury on others. I personally saw him
engage in at least 3 vicious beatings of another during my time in high
school. These took place at his mothers house. Billy Boy was one year older
that Dead Head and I.
It's a good thing Dead Head passed away before the advent
of the Internet. Dead Head would have made a great Hacker and probably
would have spread a multitude of very damaging Viruses about. That would
have been Dead Head's most excellent entertainment.
Mark came into my life in the third grade as well. I have discovered that there is something about my life and the number 3. Mark moved to our fair city from down south, the LA area. I grew up and still live in the Central Valley of California. Mark and I became fast friends. We had a lot in common. At the time, we both became involved in Cub Scouts. We then graduated onto Boy Scouts. Mark and I got to spend a lot of time talking about rather deep topics. God, the heavens, why there were so many stars, God, girls, God, girls, cars. We both went to the same Methodist church. Did I happen to mention we talked of God a lot. If I had been as spiritually aware back then, I would have known why. I wasn't though, so I thought nothing of it. Just seemed like we both had a lot of questions and not a whole lot of answers.
We both loved playing with GI Joes and acting out parts in World War 2 war dramas. Mark's GI Joes always seemed to have a much rougher life than mine. His would be involved in plane crashes where the plane actually caught fire. GI Joes smell something awful as they burn and put out lots of smoke. Just for your reference, it's a real good thing to allow for these flaming crashes to take place when parents aren't around.
Mark and Dead Head knew of each other. We all went to the same schools. We all were in the same grade. We lived within blocks of each other, but at first Dead Head and Mark didn't hit it off too well. Dead Head didn't hit it off too well with a lot of folks. I was kind of a go between for a number of years betwixt them. That was all right. I got along with the two of them ok. I know it was Dead Head that got Mark into smoking Cigarettes as well. It took Mark much longer before he quit, years. I was and still am very good friends with Mark. Dead Head, a pretty good associate. There were times in my life I felt sorry for Dead Head. He was rather overweight and the kids made fun of him from time to time.
Mark is still alive and kicking, thank God. Too bad he
lives clear across the continent from me. We still get to see each other
on rare occasions.
Doug grew up right across the street from me, kitty corner.
I had known Doug most of his life. I never realized the fantastic bond
Doug and I developed until much later in my life. Trying to describe Doug
in a few sentences is tough. Let's see. He was a thin kid, rather intelligent
in a street smart way, but I got the impression school and he didn't work
out so great. I never discussed Doug's grades with him or much of his personal
life. He was about six years younger than me, so socially there wasn't
a great deal in common to discuss with him. He was good to have around
if you wanted to play a game of tag or catch, in the early years. Later
on, he was good to know just to be able to talk too.